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The Snooper’s Charter becomes UK law - here’s what you need to know



A controversial surveillance bill, described by Edward Snowden as the "the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy," has been approved by UK MPs.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, commonly known as the Snooper’s Charter, has been granted Royal Ascent, meaning it is now UK law.

The Bill will dramatically extend the lawful powers of the Home Office to collect data on citizens, including the web history of everyone in the UK.

Related: Snooper's Charter - Why should you care?

Phone and internet companies will be legally bound to store records for 12 months as well as offer access to the police, government agencies and security services.

In a post on Gov.UK, the Home Office explained the bill “creates one new power: the introduction of Internet Connection Records, which will be accessible by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies to disrupt terrorist attacks and prosecute suspects.”

In effect, the bill coming into law also legalises hacking for the purposes of bulk data collection.

The government says a number of checks and balances have also been introduced, with judges' approval required for “the most intrusive powers,” while a “powerful” new Commissioner will be appointed to assure the powers are not being abused.

There’ll also be “new protections for journalistic and legally privileged material” that will supposedly protect reporters' sources.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd was in bullish mood after the law was approved by 440 Members of Parliament.

“The Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation, that provides unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection," she said.

The government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement and security and intelligence services have the power they need to keep people safe. The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight.”

The Bill is already being opposed by a petition containing 139,000 signatures, which means it will need to be debated by Parliament.

A leading critic of the legislation, Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group wrote: “Now that the bill has passed, there is renewed concern about the extent of the powers that will be given to the police and security agencies.

“In particular, people appear to be worried about new powers that mean our web browsing activity can be collected by internet service providers and viewed by the police and a whole range of government departments. Parliament may choose to ignore calls for a debate but this could undermine public confidence in these intrusive powers.”

The legislation will replace the existing Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, which had been due to expire on December 31.

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How do you feel about the Snooper's Charter? Is it the price we pay for safety or too great an impingement on civil liberties? Share your thoughts below.


November 29, 2016, 8:37 pm

Basically if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. The exception being when the processing of metadata shows you up to be an risk erroneously and you get followed and hacked and possibly prosecuted for a minor offence.

If you use a VPN, the big ones are all compromised. If you use onion routers, you'll end up getting monitored as it makes you a target. In reality the only way to be a criminal these days is to do it offline as GCHQ has always been very much ahead of the game (and the Echelon network means we work with a lot of the Anglosphere in intelligence) and have been intercepting traffic since the first undersea cables went down. This just legalises what they already do in specific cases and ensures the evidence is available. There's so much data here that the sheer volume means personal data will not be accessed and analysed unless you give them reason or if metadata analysis means you're targeted.

Interestingly, the analysis of the intel post 9/11 showed that old fashioned analysis would have prevented the 9/11 attacks where they were missed by metadata analysis. This means that in most places the two methods work in tandem as there are some types of intel which can only be properly interpreted with human intuition and some which require such large datasets that only a supercomputer can determine the patterns. Anyhoos, I ramble. Bloody beer.


November 29, 2016, 11:10 pm

But I do have something to hide; my privacy!


November 29, 2016, 11:42 pm

"... accessible by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies to disrupt terrorist attacks..."

"... subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight..."

"..the Food Standards Agency will be able to request access to this information without requiring a warrant." (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/t...

Yeah, right, terrorism.


November 30, 2016, 1:05 pm

The "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" argument is ridiculous. You're aware that this is a democracy? We should have freedom of speech? Well you can only have freedom of speech when you have privacy. Also privacy is a basic human right.

This gives far too much power to the government, and even if you trust the current government not to abuse that power (which I don't) then what about the next one? What if a Trump-a-like gets elected?

Will you be happy when they install a camera in every room in your house? After all you have nothing to hide do you?


November 30, 2016, 2:57 pm

AGH, my bloody reply has disappeared again. I'm not wring the whole thing out again. I'm getting sick of this thing.

Yes it's a valid point of view a lot of people hold but no I don't agree with it as you can tell by my "erroneously targeted" statement. Please don't go getting all aggressive with people on the internet just because you don't agree with them, it's pointless.

This law puts power into the hands of the wrong people (probably the same people deleted my reply) - the last iteration of this law ended up with local councils putting cameras in wheelie bins to catch people not recycling properly.
The analysis of metadata is not an invasion of privacy as it's mass data analysed by a computer totally impersonally which draws conclusions based upon patterns - i.e. if you call a known terrorist or are mixing with people who provide potassium nitrate, plumbers and screwfix as well as the local radical preacher, it'll flag you up. The invasion of privacy comes when an analyst looks into you purely based on the output of a machine. It has and will prevent terrorist attacks but as I pointed out above, it will also miss things which would have been spotted with traditional techniques.

It's also a matter of how much money do you throw at this? The number of people you could save from being killed or seriously injured by simply giving car drivers top up/ advanced training would be far higher for the same investment but getting run over is boring and we're desensitised to it. Getting blown up is still scary and so they'll spend millions in order to save a handful of lives every few years rather than several hundred lives a year with road safety investments.

As you point out - the power is going to the wrong people. This should be limited to sections of the police (counter terrorism, serious / organised crime, etc), intelligence agencies and that's about it. Unfortunately when (as someone points out above) the bloody food standards agency can get hold of it, it becomes a bit of a pisstake.

The mainstream media did not even cover this being passed by Parliament which tells you all you need to know about how the mainstream media is controlled by government.

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